Starting this blog on the First Sunday of Advent seems fitting, it’s the first day of the Liturgical Year 2023. Happy New Year! I would like to share a few thoughts about why I am writing and then a thought about Advent.
The idea to write about journeys began many years ago when I owned my little ice cream/health and wellness shop in Oglesby, Illinois. I had an idea for a book and bought a url for a website. Seriously, I mean MANY years ago, a time before blogs! I wanted to write about how our call, to live our lives authentically using the gifts and talents we each have, comes to life when we share it with others. We help others as we honor the call we each have and encourage each other to listen to it. I sat on it for years!
In more recent times, I have been encouraged to listen to the voice within that seeks expression, by exceptional writer, journalist, contemporary poet and friend, Judith Valente. I’ve been inspired by Judith to keep journaling, writing haiku and letter writing. (A must read regarding two spiritual companions sharing their journey in letter writing – How to Be by Judith and Brother Paul Quenon) Although I am not as faithful as I would like with poetry writing. Judith said write for yourself, write to share your thoughts, even if no one reads it. I have pages of ideas that would be part of a book. I waited for a sign, for more ideas, to have more time. I kept putting it off.
About a month ago, I had a pretty significant emotional setback. It wasn’t a crisis of faith, but one of purpose. I wondered what the point was if I didn’t have a purpose. I had a lot going on in my personal and work life, so I know now, looking back, things seemed worse at the moment than they actually were. But it was a moment of crisis that resulted in deep self-reflection and setting goals to focus on things that are important to me. One of those goals was to begin this blog. So, today I begin.
Perhaps you have had moments like that on your life’s journey. Think about who and what helped you moved out of the darkness of not knowing what to do next. Write about it – capture your thoughts in a journal or write a letter (yes, the long-hand kind, on stationery, not an email or text) to the person who was there for you.
Advent is a time of waiting and preparing. In life we wait. We wait for summer vacations, holidays and family gatherings. We wait for good health reports or wait in hopes that the news isn’t bad. We wait for the arrival of a new baby, a new job, new beginnings. We live in a time of instant gratification. We don’t like to wait or we wait impatiently. All you have to do is look at Black Friday sales that begin in September or October and continue long after “the” Black Friday. We are marketed to and sold that we have to act now or we’ll miss out.
In some ways, spiritually, this is true. We need to “awaken from our slumber, to always be aware of the presence of God, and to welcome Him in our daily lives.” (Pope Francis, Angelus Message on the First Sunday of Advent) Pope Francis also said we need to shake off the lethargy of daily life and be vigilant always. To wait for, prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas and at the end of times should give us reason for hope. It is a foundation of our Christian faith.
I attended the funeral of a wonderful woman yesterday. I will miss her warm smile and greeting at daily and Saturday Masses. Madeline had a long life and the celebration of her faith was a reason for rejoicing that years of believing and confident trust will be worth the wait for her. The “discipline of doing God’s will is not … quick and easy. Neither is bearing with things that we have repeatedly asked God to fix” says Judith Sutera in Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from St. Benedict. As a Benedictine Oblate (lay associate of a Benedictine monastery) we begin the year (and repeat twice through the year) with the Prologue of The Rule of St. Benedict reminding us to get up, to rise from our sleep and to open our eyes and ears to God’s voice.
Advent helps us take a deeper look at the delicate balance of waiting, slowing down in hopeful anticipation, and being prepared for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. My goal is to be more thoughtful and prayerful this Advent. I don’t want to arrive at Christmas saying I wish I had prepared better, spiritually. I also don’t want to say that at the end of my days.
On this first day of Advent, make a “new year’s” resolution of your own. How would you like to spend this time of waiting, preparing for Christmas? What changes might you make to deepen your faith life or your spiritual practices and communal prayer life this new liturgical year? Is there a slumber or lethargy that you would like to wake from? How can you be more aware of God’s presence in the common and ordinary moments of each day?
Peace be with you, Deena
Note: My goal is to write weekly but during this holy time of Advent and Christmas, I may post a bit more. I hope that this blog will provide some food for thought and inspiration, but at least, know that you have a friend on this journey with you.
Image by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash